Thriving opportunities at p:ear

P:ear is an organization in downtown Portland that helps homeless youth through art and art making. The space, located at 809 S.W. Alder St., is in constant flux as various art projects are completed, shown, shared and sold by youths and the professional artists who donate time and skills to mentor them.

This month, p:ear features the work of Rachel Denny, an artist who also shows at the Mark Woolley Gallery. Denny is known for her nostalgic, sepia-entrenched mixed-media compositions that often incorporate found imagery. Old photographs are treated and combined sometimes with more modern colors. The works are more object-like than flat. Working in her style might be a natural for youths who probably have their own share of found objects and makeshift situations in their lives.

The gallery is always open on First Thursday but otherwise functions more as a place to meet, learn and create as opposed to being strictly a place for commerce. Guest artists of the highest caliber, such as Henk Pander and Lauren Mantecon, have shown their work alongside the art of young people who, regardless of their situation, show plenty of creativity. Just as art functions as a refuge for many an artist, it can similarly help those who search for focus and meaning on whatever level. P:ear, which stands for "Program: education, art, recreation," recognizes that art, as the saying goes, saves lives.

Young people are able to be a part of the process from inception to end: the making, the installation, the reception and the selling of art. Local businesses donate materials, and classes range from glass to sculpture to painting. Visual arts are not the only thing explored. Volunteers teach workshops on music, poetry, creative writing and web design. Through p:ear, many move to the next level and earn their GED. Portland State University has several partnerships with p:ear, including Senior Capstone projects.

Another goal of p:ear is to allow young people an opportunity to get out of downtown for a few hours. Some never leave the small area which is downtown Portland, but p:ear attempts to remedy this by taking groups to museums, concerts, games and all kinds of art events. With this kind of exposure, p:ear succeeds at its goal: to thrive instead of merely to survive.

P;ear welcomes enquiries into volunteer opportunities and can be reached at 503.228.6677 or